It is disappointing that Macedon Ranges Shire Council (MRSC) appears to be continuing its head-in-the-sand approach to the issue of Hanging Rock. I would have thought that former Minister for Planning Matthew Guy's intervention some months back, including his statement that the State Government and MRSC would work together to ensure proper permanent protection for the Rock and its surrounds, might have been the final word in at least one chapter in this extraordinary saga. The protection he spoke of was predicated on the East Paddock being rezoned to match the zoning of the Reserve, but council maintains a suspicious silence about Mr Guy's observation.
We have heard a lot about consultation recently, with council seeking public comment on its Consultation Policy. That in itself is commendable, but the best policy in the world is not worth the paper it is written on unless it is actually implemented. Twelve months later, we are still waiting for the promised consultation on Hanging Rock.
In the meantime, council has announced its revised policy on advisory committees, and appointed new committees, one of which is the Hanging Rock Development Advisory Committee. In its last incarnation, this committee was deeply flawed in its make-up - and hence in its decisions - and the new one isn't much better. There is no real local, environment-oriented representation on the committee, despite the Newham and District Landcare Group (NDLG) formally requesting that it have a representative. There is no other group which has the knowledge, the expertise, the passion, the ability to secure funding, and a track record of financial contribution and man-hours of work to match the NDLG. Coincidentally, some of the main drivers of NDLG are also among the most vocal and articulate critics of council over the Hanging Rock resort fiasco, and being denied a place on the committee appears to be their punishment.
There has been a new broom sweep through Victoria, unfortunately taking with it one of Hanging Rock's most powerful and passionate advocates in Amanda Millar. I am confident that Mary-Anne Thomas will assume a similar advocacy role. At the local level, we finally have a mayor who has a strong community focus, so there is now a great opportunity for real progress to be made in the re-shaping of MRSC into a responsive, accountable and consultative organisation.